First Response Transformation Campaign Earns Research Fellowship

Dec 15, 2022

Public Health Advocates’ Dr. Kristina Gelardi to Examine Emergency Response Issues

Kristina Gelardi, Ph.D.

Sacramento: Dr. Kristina Gelardi, the Director of Research and Learning for Public Health Advocates, has been selected to participate in the Interdisciplinary Research Leaders (IRL) Fellowship, in partnership with Dr. Shani Buggs of UC Davis and Dr. Susan Perez of California State University, Sacramento.

IRL is a national leadership program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for teams of researchers and community partners. These teams use the power of applied research—by working with the community to explore critical issues and apply the findings—to advance health and equity. Their innovation helps build a Culture of Health, one that enables everyone across the United States to live longer, healthier lives. 

Their project takes place against a backdrop of institutional racism and prejudice embedded in traditional systems of police, fire, and emergency medical services, and at a time when 911 data is often difficult to obtain or understand.

The research team will attempt to address a specific question: How can police, fire, and emergency medical services (first response systems) best align with the health and safety needs of individuals from marginalized communities during crises and emergencies?

The findings of this multi-method project will be used to inform the development of first response systems that align with community needs, judiciously allocate budgets, and reduce disparities in negative outcomes from first response interactions.

“We have an opportunity to look past politics and ensure a first response system that meets the needs of individuals in a moment of crisis,” said Kristina Gelardi, PhD, Director of Research and Learning at Public Health Advocates. “Current data suggests that people of color, the LGBTQ+, community, and unhoused individuals are more likely to experience negative outcomes when interacting with first responders. We hope to help communities design more equitable first response systems through community-led and data-driven policy change.”

“It’s exciting to partner with PHAdvocates and Dr. Susan Perez, in addition to collaborating with the phenomenal researchers and leaders in the RWJF Interdisciplinary Scholars program, to better understand and improve the impacts of current first response systems across California,” said Dr. Shani Buggs of UC Davis.

“I am grateful that I get to do this incredible and important work with Dr. Gelardi and Dr. Buggs,” said Dr. Susan Perez of California State University, Sacramento.

The research will be conducted in concert with the ongoing activities of the First Response Transformation Campaign, which focuses on prevention by championing systemic changes to make emergency response systems more responsive to community needs, less costly, and less racially biased.

More information about the IRL Fellowship is available at

More information about the First Response Transformation Campaign can be found at

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